Brown and Charley Quarrel — Night Watch — Routine of Our Daily Life, and Habits of the Members of the Party — Mount Lang — Streams of Lava — A Horse Breaks His Leg, is Killed and Eaten — Native Tribe — Mr. Roper’s Accident — Whitsunday — Big Ant Hill Creek — Deprived of Water for Fifty Hours — Friendly Natives — Separation Creek — The Lynd — Psychological Effects of a Sojourn in the Wilderness — Native Camp — Salt Exhausted.
May 1. — We travelled west by north, to latitude 18 degrees 55 minutes 41 seconds, over almost a dead flat, which was only interrupted by a fine Casuarina creek, with a broad sandy bed, coming from the south-south-west. The soil was stiff, and the forest in which the Box tree prevailed, was very open. A species of Acacia, with narrow blunt phyllodia, about an inch long, with spinous stipules; Hakea lorea, and the Grevillea mimosoides (R. Br.), with very long linear leaves, were frequent. Towards the end of the journey, slight ridges, composed of flint rock, rose on our left; and the country became more undulating. Mr. Roper saw extensive ranges about fifteen miles distant; shortly before entering the camp, we passed a singularly broken country, in which the waters rushing down from a slightly inclined table land, had hollowed out large broad gullies in a sandy loam and iron ochre, which was full of quartz pebbles. The heavier masses had resisted the action of the waters, and remained like little peaks and islands, when the softer materials around them had been washed away. We met with grass lately burnt, and some still burning, which indicated the presence of natives. It was generally very warm during the hours of travelling, between eight and twelve o’clock, but the bracing air of the nights and mornings strengthened us for the day’s labour; the weather altogether was lovely, and it was a pleasure to travel along such a fine stream of water. Easterly and north-easterly breezes still prevailed, though I expected that the direction of the winds would change as we passed the centre of York Peninsula.
Our two black companions, who until now had been like brothers — entertaining each other by the relation of their adventures, to a late hour of the night; singing, chatting, laughing, and almost crying together; making common cause against me; Brown even following Charley into his banishment — quarrelled yesterday, about a mere trifle, so violently that it will be some time before they become friends again. When Mr. Calvert and Brown returned yesterday to the camp, they remarked that they had not seen the waterfall, of which Charley had spoken whilst at our last camp; upon which Charley insinuated that they had not seen it, because they had galloped their horses past it. This accusation of galloping their horses irritated Brown, who was very fond and proud of his horse; and a serious quarrel of a rather ridiculous character ensued. Keeping myself entirely neutral, I soon found that I derived the greatest advantage from their animosity to each other, as each tried to outdo the other in readiness to serve me. To-day, Charley, who was usually the last to rise in the morning, roused even me, and brought the horses before our breakfast was ready. Brown’s fondness for spinning a yarn will soon, however, induce him to put an end to this feud with his companion and countryman. In the early part of our journey, one or other of our party kept a regular night-watch, as well to guard us from any night attack of the natives, as to look after our bullocks; but, latterly, this prudential measure, or rather its regularity, has been much neglected. Mr. Roper’s watch was handed from one to another in alphabetical rotation at given intervals, but no one thought of actually watching; it was, in fact, considered to be a mere matter of form. I did not check this, because there was nothing apparently to apprehend from the natives, who always evinced terror in meeting us; and all our communications with them have been accidental and never sought by them. On that point, therefore, I was not apprehensive; and, as to the bullocks, they were now accustomed to feed at large, and we seldom had any difficulty in recovering them in the morning. I shall here particularise the routine of one of our days, which will serve as an example of all the rest. I usually rise when I hear the merry laugh of the laughing-jackass (Dacelo gigantea), which, from its regularity, has not been unaptly named the settlers’ clock; a loud cooee then roused my companions — Brown to make tea, Mr. Calvert to season the stew with salt and marjoram, and myself and the others to wash, and to prepare our breakfast, which, for the party, consists of two pounds and a-half of meat, stewed over night; and to each a quart pot of tea. Mr. Calvert then gives to each his portion, and, by the time this important duty is performed, Charley generally arrives with the horses, which are then prepared for their day’s duty. After breakfast, Charley goes with John Murphy to fetch the bullocks, which are generally brought in a little after seven o’clock a.m. The work of loading follows, but this requires very little time now, our stock being much reduced; and, at about a quarter to eight o’clock, we move on, and continue travelling four hours, and, if possible, select a spot for our camp. The Burdekin, which has befriended us so much by its direct course and constant stream, already for more than two degrees of latitude and two of longitude, has not always furnished us with the most convenient camps for procuring water. The banks generally formed steep slopes descending into a line of hollows parallel to the river, and thickly covered with a high stiff grass; and then another steep bank covered with a thicket of drooping tea-trees, rose at the water’s edge; and, if the descent into the bed of the river was more easy, the stream frequently was at the opposite side, and we had to walk several hundred yards over a broad sheet of loose sand, which filled our mocassins, when going to wash. At present, the river is narrower, and I have chosen my camp twice on its dry sandy bed, under the shade of Casuarinas and Melaleucas, the stream being there comparatively easy of access, and not ten yards off. Many unpleasant remarks had been made by my companions at my choice of camping places; but, although I suffered as much inconvenience as they did, I bore it cheerfully, feeling thankful to Providence for the pure stream of water with which we were supplied every night. I had naturally a great antipathy against comfort-hunting and gourmandizing, particularly on an expedition like ours; on which we started with the full expectation of suffering much privation, but which an Almighty Protector had not only allowed us to escape hitherto, but had even supplied us frequently with an abundance — in proof of which we all got stronger and improved in health, although the continued riding had rather weakened our legs. This antipathy I expressed, often perhaps too harshly, which caused discontent; but, on these occasions, my patience was sorely tried. I may, however, complete the picture of the day: as soon as the camp is pitched, and the horses and bullocks unloaded, we have all our alloted duties; to make the fire falls to my share; Brown’s duty is to fetch water for tea; and Mr. Calvert weighs out a pound and a-half of flour for a fat cake, which is enjoyed more than any other meal; the large teapot being empty, Mr. Calvert weighs out two and a-half pounds of dry meat to be stewed for our late dinner; and, during the afternoon, every one follows his own pursuits, such as washing and mending clothes, repairing saddles, pack-saddles, and packs; my occupation is to write my log, and lay down my route, or make an excursion in the vicinity of the camp to botanize, &c. or ride out reconnoitring. My companions also write down their remarks, and wander about gathering seeds, or looking for curious pebbles. Mr. Gilbert takes his gun to shoot birds. A loud cooee again unites us towards sunset round our table cloth; and, whilst enjoying our meals, the subject of the day’s journey, the past, the present, and the future, by turns engage our attention, or furnish matter for conversation and remark, according to the respective humour of the parties. Many circumstances have conspired to make me strangely taciturn, and I am now scarcely pleased even with the chatting humour of my youngest companion, whose spirits, instead of flagging, have become more buoyant and lively than ever. I consider it, however, my invariable duty to give every information I can, whenever my companions inquire or show a desire to learn, and I am happy to find that they are desirous of making themselves familiar with the objects of nature by which they are surrounded, and of understanding their mutual relations. Mr. Roper is of a more silent disposition; Mr. Calvert likes to speak, and has a good stock of “small talk,” with which he often enlivens our dinners; he is in that respect an excellent companion, being full of jokes and stories, which, though old and sometimes quaint, are always pure, and serve the more to exhilarate the party. Mr. Gilbert has travelled much, and consequently has a rich store of impressions de voyage: his conversation is generally very pleasing and instructive, in describing the character of countries he has seen, and the manners and customs of the people he has known. He is well informed in Australian Ornithology. As night approaches, we retire to our beds. The two Blackfellows and myself spread out each our own under the canopy of heaven, whilst Messrs. Roper, Calvert, Gilbert, Murphy, and Phillips, have their tents. Mr. Calvert entertains Roper with his conversation; John amuses Gilbert; Brown tunes up his corroborri songs, in which Charley, until their late quarrel, generally joined. Brown sings well, and his melodious plaintive voice lulls me to sleep, when otherwise I am not disposed. Mr. Phillips is rather singular in his habits; he erects his tent generally at a distance from the rest, under a shady tree, or in a green bower of shrubs, where he makes himself as comfortable as the place will allow, by spreading branches and grass under his couch, and covering his tent with them, to keep it shady and cool, and even planting lilies in blossom (Crinum) before his tent, to enjoy their sight during the short time of our stay. As the night advances, the Blackfellows’ songs die away; the chatting tongue of Murphy ceases, after having lulled Mr. Gilbert to sleep; and at last even Mr. Calvert is silent, as Roper’s short answers became few and far between. The neighing of the tethered horse, the distant tinkling of the bell, or the occasional cry of night birds, alone interrupt the silence of our camp. The fire, which was bright as long as the corroborri songster kept it stirred, gradually gets dull, and smoulders slowly under the large pot in which our meat is simmering; and the bright constellations of heaven pass unheeded over the heads of the dreaming wanderers of the wilderness, until the summons of the laughing jackass recalls them to the business of the coming day.
May 2. — We travelled in a N.W. direction to lat. 18 degrees 50 minutes 11 seconds; at first over the box flats, alternating with an undulating open country. About three miles before making our camp, we passed several small plains at the foot of what appeared to be basaltic ridges, and came to the dry channel of a river, with reeds and occasional water-holes, and lined with fine flooded-gum trees and Casuarinas, but without the dropping tea trees and the Moreton Bay ash, the latter of which seemed to be the prerogative of the Burdekin. At its left side a basaltic ridge rose, covered with thick scrub, and at its base extended a small plain, with black soil strewed with quartz pebbles. The river came, as well as I could judge, from the W.N.W. Mr. Roper and Brown caught a kangaroo, but they had a dangerous ride after it, and the poor brute, when hard pressed, showed fight, and endeavoured to lay hold of Mr. Roper.
In one of the creeks I observed pegmatite; pebbles of talc-schiste and of white quartz covered the bed of the river.
May 3. — We had to travel for a considerable distance in the bed of the river, for the hills approached close to its banks, and numerous deep gullies intercepted their slopes. When, however, the ridges receded, we passed several fine sound flats. The forest was open everywhere, and the grass was good, though old. After travelling about five miles, we saw a hill to the north-east, and, when we came almost abreast of it, the river turned to the eastward, and a wild field of broken basaltic lava rendered it impossible for us to follow its banks. The black rough masses of rock were covered with thick scrub, in which I observed numerous bottle trees with the platanus leaf. Keeping to the westward of the scrub, I followed a creek which farther on divided in a chain of ponds, into which the waters of the field of basalt, as well as of the basaltic ridges to the westward of it, collected. These ridges were perfectly level at their summits, and were connected with a table land which extended far to the west. At their foot sienite, quartz rock, and leptinite, were observed. After turning round the field of lava to the eastward, we entered into a large flat, with patches of narrow-leaved tea tree, with reedy swamps and fine flooded-gum trees, and made our camp at a strong running brook, without trees, but densely surrounded with reeds, ferns, and pothos. This stream formed the outlet of some fine lagoons, which extended along the steep slopes of the basaltic table land. I crossed the creek and its flat to the opposite hills. The flat was one level sheet or floor of basalt, here and there covered with a very shallow soil, but sometimes bare, though clothed with a fair supply of grass and with scattered flooded-gum trees. At the foot of the eastern hills, however, deep holes existed in a water-course, with black blocks of basalt heaped over each other, on which the fig tree with its dark green foliage formed a shady bower, most delightful during the heat of the day. The hills were composed of a lamellar granite, approaching the stratified appearance of gneiss, but the leaflets of mica, instead of forming continuous layers, were scattered. The east side of the narrow watercourse was of primitive rock, the west side basaltic. Having passed over the hills, I made the river at their east side. Its banks were open for access as far as the primitive rock extended, but another field of lava commenced higher up, and rendered any progress with our cattle impossible.
A native low shrubby Mulberry was found in this scrub, the fruit of which was good to eat, but of very small size.
From the top of the hills I enjoyed a most beautiful view of the valley of the river, with its large lagoons covered with Nymphaeas and Damasoniums. On one of the lagoons, Charley shot a Parra gallinacea, a bird which Mr. Gilbert had observed only at Port Essington. A well beaten path of the natives showed that they were numerous in this part of the country: we saw many of their camping places during the stage; and the fires of their camps were numerous; we saw a party of them, but they were too frightened to allow us to approach. Our latitude was 18 degrees 44 minutes 48 seconds. Our course was about N.N.W.
May 4. — We ascended the basaltic ridges, and reaching the table land, found it perfectly level, openly timbered, well grassed, but occasionally stony, by which our poor foot-sore bullocks suffered severely. About five miles north-west by west from our camp, we discovered an extensive valley with large lagoons and lakes, and a most luxuriant vegetation, bounded by blue distant ranges, and forming the most picturesque landscape we had yet met with. A chain of lagoons connected by a reedy brook followed the outlines of the table land, along the foot of its steep slopes. We descended by a tolerably gentle slope into the valley, and encamped near the reedy brook, which must be the same as that on which, lower down, our last camp was formed. Water, grass, hills, mountains, plains, forest land; all the elements of a fine pasturing country, were here united.
During one of the last stages, we discovered a leguminous tree, with the dark fissured bark of the Ironbark, but with large bipinnate leaves, the leaflets oblong, an inch in length; the pods broad and thin, and two or three inches long: this tree is common all over the northern part of the continent, and was found growing abundantly around Victoria, the principal settlement of Port Essington.
Mr. Roper and Brown, upon an excursion after ducks, which were very numerous on the lagoons, met with Blackfellows, who were willing to accost Brown, but could not bear the sudden sight of a white face. In trying to cross the valley, my course was intercepted every way by deep reedy and sedgy lagoons, which rendered my progress impossible. I saw, however, that this valley was also floored with a sheet of lava hollowed out into numerous deep basins, in which the water collected and formed the lagoons.
May 5. — I went with Charley to reconnoitre the upper part of the reedy brook, with a view to find a passage over the table land to the westward; at the same time I sent Mr. Roper and Brown to trace the river through the lagoons, and to examine whether there was any connection between them. I followed the base of the basaltic table land, along which the brook came down, and, after a two miles’ ride on its banks, through oak trees, low fern trees, and several bush trees, found that it came down a valley deeply cut into the table land. The floor of the valley was of basaltic rock, and its steep slopes were covered with boulders of the same formation. The water ran in two distinct beds through the fissures, hollows, and caves of the rock. As our horses could not travel over the sharp edges of the rock without injuring their feet, we ascended the table land, and rode to the northward about four miles, and then came on plains, in which we distinguished a meandering band of green verdure, which proved to be the same brook we had left, or one of its head waters. We followed it through a series of plains, from one of which a blue mountain was visible to the north-west. I called it “Mount Lang,” after Dr. Lang, the distinguished historiographer of New South Wales. Smoke was seen to the westward. At the right side of the brook, a stream of lava bounded the plains, and was, as usual, covered with dense scrub. Box, with occasional patches of narrow-leaved tea trees, grew along the plains. The forest was very open, and principally consisted of narrow-leaved Ironbark; the grass in the forest and on the plains, was of the best description. Finer stations for the squatter cannot exist.
May 6. — Following the brook about four miles farther, I came to its source at a gentle slope of basalt. Plains stretched along both sides of its course, and even beyond it. Luxuriant reeds, Plothos, and several deep green trees, crowded round its head. Kangaroos, which abounded particularly along the scrub, had formed numerous paths through the high grass to the water’s edge. I now directed my course to the W.N.W., but soon found myself checked by a dyke or wall of basaltic lava, composed of boulders and tabular blocks heaped over each other in wild confusion, and covered by scrub; it stretched from N.W. to S.E. I travelled round its edge to the southward, after having made a vain attempt to cross it. The outlines of the stream ran out in low heads into the flat table land, and there we met occasionally with springs and chains of water-holes which united lower down into a water-course, which, after following alternately the outline of the scrub, and turning into the stream of lava, became lost among its loose rocks. The lava was very cellular; the basalt of the table land solid. The whole appearance of this interesting locality showed that the stream of lava was of much more recent date than the rock of the table land, and that the latter was probably formed under water, whilst the cellular scorified lava was poured out into the open air. The stream of lava enlarged so much, and descended into so broad a valley, that I considered it to be the head of the Burdekin. I walked across it, in order to ascertain the presence of water, but found nothing but deep dry hollows surrounded with drooping tea trees, and the black basaltic rocks covered with wild bottle-tree scrub. It joined the valley of lagoons very much like the valley of the reedy brook, and seemed to unite with the latter, and to expand all over the large basin. Numerous headlands protruded from the table land into the valley of lagoons, between the stream of lava and reedy brook. Many of them were composed of quartzite and pegmatite [Graphic granite, composed of quartz and laminated felspar. — Ed.], the detritus of which formed sandy slopes very different from the black and loamy soil of the table land and its plains. Several isolated hills and short ridges rise out of the basaltic floor of the valley of lagoons; they are composed of a different rock; and if it may be allowed me to judge by the colour and by analogy, I should say that they were pegmatite and quartzite. It would, therefore, appear that the valley of lagoons is connected with three streams of lava; one following down the river to the southward, a second coming down the valley of Reedy Brook from W.N.W., and the third coming from the N.W. The course of the Burdekin has no connection with this valley, but runs apparently along its eastern side, and divides the primitive rocks from the streams of lava; for I had not observed any lava on its left bank.
In returning to our camp, we saw a great number of women and children, who ran away upon seeing us, screaming loudly, which attracted some young men to the spot, who were much bolder and approached us. I dismounted and walked up within five yards of them, when I stopped short from a mutual disinclination for too close quarters, as they were armed with spears and waddies. They made signs for me to take off my hat, and to give them something; but, having nothing with me, I made a sign that I would make them a present upon returning to the camp. They appeared to be in no way unfriendly, and directed us how to avoid the water. When I reached the camp, I found that the Blackfellows had been there already, and had been rather urgent to enter it, probably in consequence of the small number of my companions then present, who, however, managed to keep them in good humour by replying to their inquiries respecting our nature and intentions; among which one of the most singular was, whether the bullocks were not our gins. This occurred last night; in the morning they returned again in great numbers, and climbed the trees on the other side of the brook to observe what was doing within the camp. It now became necessary to show them our superiority; which we attempted to do by shooting at a kite, numbers of which were perched on the neighbouring trees; our shots, however, unfortunately missed, and the natives answered the discharge of the gun with a shout of laughter. At this time, however, Mr. Roper, Charley, and myself returned from our excursion, when they became quiet. I threw a tin canister over to them, and they returned me a shower of roasted Nymphaea fruit. It seems that the seed-vessels of Nymphaea and its rhizoma form the principal food of the natives; the seeds contain much starch and oil, and are extremely nourishing. I then gave them some pieces of dried meat, intimating by signs that it must be grilled; soon afterwards they retired. Mr. Roper came in with sad tidings; in riding up the steep bank of the river, his horse, unable to get a footing among the loose rocks, had fallen back and broken its thigh. I immediately resolved upon going to the place where the accident had happened, and proposed to my companions, that we should try to make the best of the meat, as the animal was young and healthy, and the supply would greatly assist in saving our bullocks to the end of our long journey; and they declared themselves willing at all events to give a fair trial to the horse-flesh. Our bullocks were foot-sore and required rest. We, therefore, shot the horse, skinned and quartered it the same night; and ate its liver and kidneys, which were quite as good as those of a bullock.
May 7. — We cut the meat in slices, and dried it; and though there was some prejudice against it, it would have been very difficult to have detected any difference between it and beef; particularly if the animals had been in the same condition.
May 8. — As I found it necessary to follow the right bank of the river, in order to get out of this intricate country, I sent Mr. Gilbert and Charley to trace the river through the valley of lagoons. Having accomplished their object, they informed me that the river had no connexion with the lagoons of the large valley, but that several very large ones were even on its left bank; and that all tree vegetation disappeared from its banks where it passed through a part of the valley of lagoons.
May 9. — As my bullocks were still extremely foot-sore, it was necessary that we should travel only by short stages until they recovered; consequently, the day’s journey did not exceed five miles in a N.N.E. direction; and, with the exception of some ridges, upon excellent travelling ground, along the left bank of the river. The latter formed, as I have already stated, the line of separation, first, between basalt and granite, and afterwards between basalt and a quartzose rock (probably baked Psammite). The country was beautifully open and well grassed; the river forming a simple channel, without trees, well filled with water and flowing between chains of lakes and lagoons on either side; one of which was covered with flocks of ducks and pelicans, resembling islands of white lilies.
Beyond the almost treeless flats round the lagoons, Casuarinas and Callistemon re-appeared along the river.
We saw some Blackfellows in the distance, who immediately withdrew as we approached them; but the tribe, which we had met at Reedy Brook, came to the other side of the river, and had much to say; we did not, however, take any notice of them, until we had unloaded our bullocks and finished our luncheon, when I went down to them, and gave them a horn of one of our slaughtered bullocks. Roper had saved the mane of his horse, and threw it over to them, but it seemed to frighten them very much. We inquired by signs as to the course of the river, and we understood by their answers, that it came a long way from the northward. At Reedy Brook the natives had given my companions to understand that the brook had its source not very far off to the W.N.W., by pointing at their heads, then at the brook, and then in the direction mentioned. I was therefore inclined to trust to their information about the river’s source. They threw some yam-roots over to us, the plant of which we were not able to ascertain: and after that they retired.
May 10. — This morning they came again, and, when our bullocks were loaded and we were about to start, I went down to them and took a sort of leave. We had scarcely proceeded half a mile, when we missed the tinkling of our bell, and found that Charley had forgotten to put it on the horse’s neck, and had left it behind. Mr. Calvert and Brown, therefore, returned to look for it, and, upon reaching the place where the camp had been made, saw the natives examining and beating every part of it; at the approach of the horsemen, however, they retired to the other side of the river; but when they turned their horses’ heads, after having found the bell, the natives followed them, and threw three spears after them — whether it was out of mere wantonness, or with hostile intentions, I do not know, though I was inclined to believe the first. It was, nevertheless, a warning to us not to repose too much confidence in them. Mr. Roper met to-day with a severe accident, which nearly cost him his life. It was a very common practice to make our horses stop by catching them by the tails; as he tried to do this with his horse, which was not yet accustomed to him, the animal struck out at him, and kicked him with both feet on the chest. Roper happily recovered after some faintness, but complained for several days afterwards of external pain. We travelled this day about four miles and a half N.N.E. along the river side, following a well-beaten path of the natives.
The river was again confined in its own valley, with quartzose rocks (Psammite) on one side, and the falls of the basaltic table land on the other. Basalt was, however, observed here about on several spots at the left bank, and quartz porphyry composed the ridges near our last encampment. The river divided here into a great number of anabranches, but all confined in the same valley, and united by intermediate channels. The bed of it had again become sandy, with small pebbles of pegmatite and quartz. Casuarinas were plentiful on its banks; the poplar-gum, and the Moreton Bay ash on the adjacent flats; Tristania, with pubescent leaves round some lagoons; narrow-leaved Ironbark, and poplar-gum grew on the hills; and rich grass every where.
The night was clear, but the morning foggy, and the dew very heavy. The wind was from the northward, and, as usual, very strong after sunset.
May 11. — We travelled four miles to the E.N.E. The anabranches of the river continued; the ranges of quartz porphyry approached several times close to the river. Oak trees and drooping Melaleucas grew abundantly in its bed, and along the banks. Higher up we crossed fine flats with lagoons and lakes covered as usual with Nymphaeas. We encamped in latitude 18 degrees 32 minutes 37 seconds, after passing a Casuarina creek, with high banks and a sandy bed. This creek separated the table land from a broken low range of hills, composed of a coarse-grained sandstone. The banks of the river here seemed to have been swept away; a broad sheet of sand, covered with fine drooping tea trees, was slightly furrowed by a narrow stream of water, which seemed for the greater part filtering through the sands; chains of water-holes at its left side, fringed with Casuarinas, appeared to be anabranches of the river, and to be connected with the main stream during the rainy season.
I have to mention that a species of Sciadophyllum, nearly allied to Sc. lucidum, (Don. iii. p. 390,) was found in the lava scrub of the valley of lagoons: it was a small tree with large digitate leaves, each of them composed of from eleven to thirteen oblong acuminate, glabrous leaflets, which were about five inches long; and it attracted the attention of my companions as much by its ornamental foliage as its numerous terminal racemes of bright scarlet coloured flowers.
After having celebrated Whit–Sunday with a double allowance of fat cake and sweetened tea, I started with Charley to reconnoitre the country to the westward. Our friendly stream not only turned to the north, but afterwards to north-east and east-north-east; and though I had not succeeded in leaving it from Reedy Brook — not having been able to cross the lava streams of the basaltic table land — I now concluded, from the nature of the pebbles, and sands of the creek which we had crossed last, that the basalts and lavas had ceased, and that a passage to the westward would be practicable.
I followed the Casuarina Creek up to its head, and called it “Big Ant-hill Creek,” in consequence of numerous gigantic strangely buttressed structures of the white ant, which I had never seen of such a form, and of so large a size.
The general course of the creek was north-north-west: for the first ten miles it was without water, but its middle and upper course was well provided with fine reedy holes, the constant supply of water in which was indicated by Nymphaeas, and other aquatic plants. At its left side near the junction I observed, as before mentioned, a coarse grained sandstone, and, at less than a mile higher up, I found flint rock; and, wherever I examined afterwards, the rocks proved to be coarse grained granite and pegmatite, the decomposition of which formed a sandy soil on the slopes, and clayey flats along the creek. The latter, however, were very limited. The ant-hills were intimately connected with the rock, as the ants derived their materials for building from the minute particles of clay among the sand. The primitive rock was cut with deep gullies and ravines, and several tributary creeks joined Big Ant-hill Creek from the primitive side. The basaltic table land, which extended all along the right side of the creek, formed steep slopes into its valley, and were generally topped with loose basaltic boulders. The table land was highest near the creek, and its drainage was not towards the creek, but to the south-west, into the valley of lagoons. White quartz rock was observed in a few places on the right side of the creek, where the primitive rock seemed to encroach into the territory of the basalt; and felspathic porphyry formed probably a dyke in the pegmatite, but was most evidently broken by the basalt. Where the upper part of the creek formed a shallow watercourse, and turned altogether into the primitive formation, a plain came down from the west-north-west with a shallow watercourse, which continued the separation of the two formations; the right side of the plain being basaltic, the soil of the Box and Ironbark forest loamy, with sharp pieces of the rock; the left side being sandy, and covered with a very pleasing poplar gum forest, in which the grotesque ant-hills were exceedingly numerous. About two miles higher up the plain, separated into several distinct plains, the largest of which was from twelve to fifteen miles long, and from two to three miles broad, and came from Mount Lang; another plain came from an isolated razorback hill, and a third continued on the line of contact of the basaltic and primitive rocks. The upper parts of the small creeks, which come down in these plains, were full of water, and had their source generally between heaps of bare basaltic rocks, surrounded by rich grass, and a scanty scrub of Pittosporum, of the native mulberry, of the fig-tree, and of several vines, with Polypodiums, Osmundas, and Caladiums growing between them.
Several other hills and mountains rose on the table land, generally with open plains at their base. The greater part, however, was open forest, principally of narrow-leaved Ironbark and Box, and occasionally poplar-gum.
One locality was particularly striking: a great number of rocky basins within the basalt, and surrounded by its black blocks, formed evidently so many lagoons during the wet season, as sedges and Polygonums — always inhabitants of constantly moist places — grew abundantly in most of them. These basins were situated between low basaltic rises, along which narrow flats frequently extended. The flooded gum-trees were fine and numerous, and made me frequently believe that I was approaching a creek. I rode, however, over eighteen miles of country to the westward without observing the slightest watercourse. Long flats bounded by slight undulations extended some to the northward, and others to the westward; but their inclination was imperceptible. I passed some hills and plains; and ascending one of the hills, I obtained a fine view. To the west by south I saw other isolated mountains: the country to the westward was not broken by any elevation; a fine long range was visible to the north-west.
It was now 3 o’clock P.M., and my Blackfellows had left me, as usual; my horse was foot-sore, and neither the poor animal nor myself had tasted water for the last thirty-six hours. Under these circumstances, though I ardently desired to push on to the north-west ranges, I thought it prudent to return; and after a short rest to my horse, during which I chewed some dry pieces of beef, I rode on my way back until 9 o’clock, and then encamped. The coldness of the night reminded me too strongly of the pleasures of the fire and the heavy dew which had fallen, though a comfort to my horse, rendered it difficult to light one; by dint of patience, however, I succeeded, and then stretched myself, hungry and thirsty as I was, by the side of a large Ironbark log; whilst my horse, which I had hobbled and tethered, drooped his head over me, little inclined either to feed or move. I started early in the morning of the 14th, and passed between Mount Lang and Razorback Hill. At the foot of the latter I met a small creek, which I followed through a long series of plains until I came on my old track, not very far from Big Ant-hill Creek. At the sight of water, which we had been without full fifty hours, my horse and I rushed simultaneously into it, and we drank, and drank, and drank again, before I could induce myself to light a fire and make some tea, which was always found to be much more wholesome, and to allay thirst sooner than the water alone.
Near the large water-hole at which I halted, was an old camping place of the natives, and the remnants of many a hut lay scattered round two large flooded gum trees. The smoke of the natives fires was seen in every direction. This part of the country is doubtless well supplied with water-holes: but as they are unconnected with a watercourse, the traveller, unless by accident, has little chance of finding them.
In returning along Ant-hill Creek, I passed a few native men sitting before their gunyas; they were not a hundred yards from me, yet they remained silent and motionless, like the black stumps of the trees around them, until the strange apparition passed by. At sunset, just as I was taking the saddle from my horse, I heard a cooee, and not considering it prudent to encamp in the vicinity of the natives, I began to tighten up the girths again; but, at the same time, answered the cooee, and soon after I saw Master Charley and his wearied horse descending from the opposite range. He had not had anything to eat since the morning of the preceding day, and was therefore exceedingly pleased to meet me. He had not been able to follow me, in consequence of the foot-soreness of his horse, but he had succeeded in finding a small spring at the foot of Mount Lang, near which the natives had often and recently encamped.
May 15. — We returned to our camp. The natives [These natives are probably the same as, or are connected with, the tribe that frequent Rockingham Bay, who have always been noticed for their friendly bearing in communications with ships visiting that place. Rockingham Bay is situated due east from the position of Dr. Leichhardt’s party. — Note by Capt. King.] had visited my companions, and behaved very amicably towards them, making them not only presents of spears and wommalas, but supplying them with seed-vessels of Nymphaea, and its mealy roasted stems and tubers, which they were in the habit of pounding into a substance much resembling mashed potatoes. They took leave of my companions to go to the sea-coast, pointing to the east and east by south, whither they were going to fetch shells, particularly the nautilus, of which they make various ornaments.
May 16 and 17. — We moved our camp about twenty miles N.N.W. to latitude 18 degrees 16 minutes 37 seconds, to one of the head brooks of Big Ant-hill Creek. We travelled the whole distance over the basaltic table-laud without any impediment. The natives approached our camp, but retired without any communication.
I had not found any westerly waters on my ride of the 13th, but had seen a range to the north-west, and that was the goal of a new exploration. As we had been fortunate enough to find water at the contact of the primitive and basaltic formation, I wished to follow the same line of contact as long as it would not carry us much out of our course. We crossed, in a northerly direction, several granitic ranges which ran out into the table land, and were separated from each other by very large swamps, at the time mostly dry, and covered with a short withered swamp grass, but bearing the marks of frequent inundations. The bed of these swamps was perfectly level, and formed by an uninterrupted sheet of basalt. Chains of water-holes between the ranges, which I hoped would lead me to creeks, were lost in the level of these swamps; indeed, these granitic ranges were remarkably destitute of watercourses. The coarse elements of the decomposed rock, principally pegmatite, had formed uniform slopes, in which even heavy showers of rain were readily absorbed; but rounded blocks of rock, sometimes curiously piled, protruded from the granitic sands. Pandanus spiralis fringed the scattered water-holes; and Grevillea chrysodendron, (R. Br.) formed a wreath, of pale silver-colour, round the swamps, but grew on sandy soil. White cranes, the ibis, geese, native companions, and plovers, were very numerous; and the large ant-hills scattered through the forest at the foot of the hills, looked like so many wigwams.
From one of the ranges I had another view of the north-west range, and we started for it, leaving the primitive country behind us. A cold, southerly wind set in on the morning of the 18th, which made Brown and myself shiver, and I most gladly availed myself of a flannel shirt, whilst Brown covered himself with his blanket. We rode about five hours over an undulating forest land, interrupted by one or two plains, and for the greater part exceedingly stony. We came at last to fresh burnt grass, and observed recent marks of the stone tomahawk of the natives; and, having passed a stony slope, with irregular low stony ridges, we saw an oak-tree creek before us, on the opposite side of which rose the granitic range for which we had directed our course. This creek also ran on the line of contact of primitive and basaltic rocks; the primitive side was cut by gullies and ravines, whilst the basalt formed a steep uninterrupted slope, though covered with boulders which had been carried down even into the sandy bed of the creek, where they were intermingled with those of granite and pegmatite. I called this creek “Separation Creek,” in allusion to its geological relations: at the point where we met it, it turned to the north and north-west, which made me believe that it was a westerly water; but in this I was mistaken.
We had some slight showers of drizzling rain during the afternoon. The wind veered towards evening to the northward, and the night was clear.
We saw several kangaroos, and their tracks to the water showed that they were numerous. One of them, which we saw in the creek, was of a light grey colour, with rich fur and a white tail.
May 19. — We returned to the camp. A cold easterly wind continued during the day; low rainy clouds in the morning formed into heavy cumuli during the afternoon.
My geological observations lead me to the conclusion, that an immense valley between granitic ranges has here been filled by a more modern basaltic eruption, which (supposing that Mount Lang is basaltic in the centre of elevation) rose in peaks and isolated hills, but formed in general a level table land. The basalt has been again broken by still more recent fissures, through which streams of lava have risen and expanded over the neighbouring rock.
May 20. — We moved our camp about eighteen miles N.N.W., to Separation Creek, the latitude of which was 18 degrees 2 minutes 22 seconds.
John Murphy found Grevillea chrysodendron in blossom, the rich orange colour of which excited general admiration. The stringy-bark tree, and Tristania, were growing on the sandy soil, and the latter near watercourses. Several native bustards (Otis Novae Hollandiae, Gould.) were shot, and I found their stomachs full of the seeds of Grewia, which abounded in the open patches of forest ground. In crossing a plain we observed, under the shade of a patch of narrow-leaved tea trees, four bowers of the bowerbird, close together, as if one habitation was not sufficient for the wanton bird to sport in; and on the dry swamps I mentioned above, small companies of native companions were walking around us at some distance, but rose with their sonorous cu-r-r-r-ring cry, whenever Brown tried to approach them. [The natives of Argyle call the cry of the native companion, Ku-ru-duc Ku-ru-duc; the natives of Port Essington call the bird Ororr. — Note by Capt. King]
May 21. — I went with Brown to reconnoitre the course of the creek, and to ascertain whether it flowed to the westward. We soon found, however, that it turned to the north and north-east, and that it was still an eastern water. As far as I followed it down, it formed the separation between the primitive rocks and the basalt, but received several creeks from the westward. In riding along we heard the cooees of natives, and passed several large camping places near the large water-holes of the creek. A Blackfellow emerged suddenly from the creek, holding a Casuarina branch in his hand, and pointing to the westward. We made a sign that we were going down the creek, and that we had no intention of hurting him; the poor fellow, however, was so frightened that he groaned and crouched down in the grass. Wishing not to increase his alarm, we rode on. I followed up one of the largest tributary creeks coming from the westward towards its head; it was lined with Casuarinas and flooded-gum trees, like Separation Creek, and came from an entirely granitic country, ridges and ranges, with some high hills, bounding its valley on both sides; it soon divided, however, into branches, and as one turned too much to the north and the other to the south, I kept between them to the westward, and passed over a hilly, broken, granitic country. Large blocks of granite crested the summits of the hills, and their slopes were covered with Acacia thickets, and arborescent Hakeas and Grevilleas. A dwarf Acacia, with rhomboid downy phyllodia, an inch long, grew between the rocks. The natives were busy on the hills, cutting out opossums and honey. We heard their calls and the cries of their children. As we descended into another valley, the whole slope was on fire; we passed through it, however, with little difficulty. We crossed ridges after ridges, passed from one little creek and watercourse to another, all of which turned to the northward. At last, heartily tired, and almost despairing of attaining the object of our search, viz., a western water, we came into a valley which went down to the south-west; and, following it down, found that it joined a larger one which went to the westward. A broad creek, with the drooping tea tree and a sandy bed, gave us the promise of soon finding water; and, following the tracks of numerous kangaroos and native dogs, we came to a small pool. After passing over very rocky granitic hills, we came into a more open country; the banks of the creek became reedy, and water was more abundant, and at last a fine pool, surrounded by a rich belt of reeds, was before us. Brown was fortunate enough to shoot two ducks; and, as the sun was setting behind a neighbouring hill, we made our camp for the night.
May 22. — We returned to our companions, and by taking a W.N.W. course, we avoided all the ranges and gullies that we had crossed yesterday. At the westerly creek I found a rose-coloured Sterculia, with large campanulate blossoms and tomentose seed-vessels: the tree had lost all its foliage. I had met with this species on the rocky ranges of Moreton Bay (at Mount Brisbane), but there it was a low shrub, whereas in this place, and all round the gulf of Carpentaria, it formed a middle sized tree with spreading branches. A new Hakea, with long thin terete leaves (different from H. lorea) and Grevillea chrysodendron, grew along the creek. Grevillea ceratophylla (R. Br.) and another Grevillea, with a compound terminal thyrsus, and long lanceolate falcate leaves, grew on the slopes, in company with a Xylomelum, with smooth and smaller seed-vessels than those of X. pyriforme. The rocky ridges were occupied by the stringy-bark, fine Cypress-pine trees, the stunted silver-leaved Ironbark, a Eucalyptus, with very scanty foliage, orange-coloured blossoms, seed-vessels longitudinally ribbed, and as large as the egg of a fowl; its butt was covered with a lamellar bark, but the upper part and the branches were white and smooth; also by another Eucalyptus, with a scaly butt like the Moreton Bay ash, but with smooth upper trunk and cordate ovate leaves, which was also new to me; we called it the Apple-gum. We frequently met with the grass tree (Xanthorrhaea.)
May 23. — We moved our camp to the westerly creek I had found the day before, which with several others formed the heads of a river, flowing to the N.W. I called this river the “Lynd,” after R. Lynd, Esq., a gentleman to whom I am under the greatest obligation, for his unmeasured liberality and kindness enabled me to devote my time exclusively to the pursuits of science and exploration.
The nights had been as usual very cold, and the dew very heavy. The prevailing breeze was from the east, veering towards evening to the north-east; during the morning a cold south-east wind. The rock was primitive, granite and pegmatite in several varities, with a few exceptions of anagenitic formation. Near the place of our first encampment on the Lynd, in lat. 17 degrees 58 minutes, I observed a sienite, to which the distribution of the hornblende in layers had given the stratified appearance of gneiss. Another rock was composed of felspar and large leaflets of white mica, or of quartz and white mica. The veins which traversed these rocks were all of quartz, which, within the pegmatite, enlarged into big masses and hills, particularly where basaltic rock was near. Mr. Gilbert and Charley went down the creek to find water and a practicable road, in case the country should prove mountainous and rocky. I had a view from a small peak near our camp; the country was full of ridges, but openly timbered, and I saw a low range to the northward, trending from east to west.
May 24. — It was the Queen’s birth-day, and we celebrated it with what — as our only remaining luxury — we were accustomed to call a fat cake, made of four pounds of flour and some suet, which we had saved for the express purpose, and with a pot of sugared tea. We had for several months been without sugar, with the exception of about ten pounds, which was reserved for cases of illness and for festivals. So necessary does it appear to human nature to interrupt the monotony of life by marked days, on which we indulge in recollections of the past, or in meditations on the future, that we all enjoyed those days as much, and even more, than when surrounded with all the blessings of civilized society; although I am free to admit, that fat-cake and sugared tea in prospectu might induce us to watch with more eagerness for the approach of these days of feasting. There were, besides, several other facts interesting to the psychologist, which exhibited the influence of our solitary life, and the unity of our purpose, on our minds. During the early part of our journey, I had been carried back in my dreams to scenes of recent date, and into the society of men with whom I had lived shortly before starting on my expedition. As I proceeded on my journey, events of earlier date returned into my mind, with all the fantastic associations of a dream; and scenes of England, France, and Italy passed successively. Then came the recollections of my University life, of my parents and the members of my family; and, at last, the days of boyhood and of school — at one time as a boy afraid of the look of the master, and now with the independent feelings of the man, communicating to, and discussing with him the progress of my journey, the courses of the rivers I had found, and the possible advantages of my discoveries. At the latter part of the journey, I had, as it were, retraced the whole course of my life, and I was now, in my dreams, almost invariably in Sydney, canvassing for support, and imagining that, although I had left my camp, yet that I should return with new resources to carry us through the remainder of our journey. It was very remarkable, that all my companions were almost invariably anticipating the end of our journey, dreaming that they reached the sea-coast, and met with ships, or that they were in Port Essington and enjoying the pleasures of civilized life; whilst I, on awaking, found my party and my interests on the place where I had left them in my dreams. During the leisure moments of the day, or at the commencement of night, when seated at my fire, all my thoughts seemed riveted to the progress and success of my journey, and to the new objects we had met with during the day. I had then to compel myself to think of absent friends and past times, and the thought that they supposed me dead or unsuccessful in my enterprize, brought me back immediately to my favourite object. Much, indeed the greater portion, of my journey had been occupied in long reconnoitring rides; and he who is thus occupied is in a continued state of excitement, now buoyant with hope, as he urges on his horse towards some distant range or blue mountain, or as he follows the favourable bend of a river; now all despairing and miserable, as he approaches the foot of the range without finding water from which he could start again with renewed strength, or as the river turns in an unfavourable direction, and slips out of his course. Evening approaches; the sun has sunk below the horizon for some time, but still he strains his eye through the gloom for the dark verdure of a creek, or strives to follow the arrow-like flight of a pigeon, the flapping of whose wings has filled him with a sudden hope, from which he relapses again into a still greater sadness; with a sickened heart he drops his head to a broken and interrupted rest, whilst his horse is standing hobbled at his side, unwilling from excessive thirst to feed on the dry grass. How often have I found myself in these different states of the brightest hope and the deepest misery, riding along, thirsty, almost lifeless and ready to drop from my saddle with fatigue; the poor horse tired like his rider, footsore, stumbling over every stone, running heedlessly against the trees, and wounding my knees! But suddenly, the note of Grallina Australis, the call of cockatoos, or the croaking of frogs, is heard, and hopes are bright again; water is certainly at hand; the spur is applied to the flank of the tired beast, which already partakes in his rider’s anticipations, and quickens his pace — and a lagoon, a creek, or a river, is before him. The horse is soon unsaddled, hobbled, and well washed; a fire is made, the teapot is put to the fire, the meat is dressed, the enjoyment of the poor reconnoiterer is perfect, and a prayer of thankfulness to the Almighty God who protects the wanderer on his journey, bursts from his grateful lips.
May 25. — We travelled about eight miles down the Lynd. The country was very mountainous; granitic and pegmatite ranges bounded the valley on both sides
May 26. — We continued our journey over the most mountainous and rocky country we had ever passed. The ranges formed the banks of the river itself, and even entered its bed, which gradually enlarged and was frequently formed by several channels fringed with large drooping tea trees. At the end of the stage, basalt was found to have broken through the granite.
May 27. — The river turned more to the northward, and, joined by many gullies, wound its way between wild and rocky, though low ranges. At a place where it left a range of rugged little peaks, basalt re-appeared at its banks, and extended for some distance, now filling flats with its rough and cellular blocks and pebbles, and again forming small hillocks of black bare rock. As soon, however, as the river had fairly left the basaltic formation, fine large flats of a light sandy soil succeeded on both sides; on which Pandanus spiralis grew in great abundance, and to a larger size than we had seen before. The bed of the river became very broad, and was covered with sands, shingle, and pebbles of the rocks of its upper course. I passed through a broad rocky gap of a range tending from east to west, and, at about two miles beyond and to the north-west of it, we encamped, in lat. 17 degrees 54 minutes 40 seconds.
In passing this gap, on a previous reconnoitring ride with Brown, I met with several natives with their wives and children, encamped at the north entrance of it. When they saw us, the men poised their spears, and shook their waddis to frighten us, but when, notwithstanding their menaces, we approached them, they left all their goods, and with their weapons only hurried up the rocks with wonderful agility. Three koolimans (vessels of stringy bark) were full of honey water, from one of which I took a hearty draught, and left a brass button for payment. Dillis, fish spears, a roasted bandicoot, a species of potatoe, wax, a bundle of tea-tree bark with dry shavings; several flints fastened with human hair to the ends of sticks, and which are used as knives to cut their skin and food; a spindle to make strings of opossum wool; and several other small utensils, were in their camp. One of my Blackfellows found a fine rock-crystal* in one of their bags, when we passed the place next day with our bullocks. The poor people had evidently not yet ventured to return. The natives we had formerly met, had generally watched our movements from a distance, and had returned to their camp as soon as we had fairly left it; but these seemed too much frightened; and I should not be surprised to find that the mountainous nature of their country had given them a greater share of superstition.
* This shows how far the custom extends throughout the continent, of considering the rock-crystal as sacred; whether it be that it has been transmitted from tribe to tribe, or that the native was everywhere inclined to pick up a shining stone, and to consider it endowed with peculiar virtues. From the absence of brilliant ores, or precious stones, in the bags and dillis of the natives, I concluded, that neither precious stones nor brilliant metallic substances existed in the country where they lived. Those with whom we came in contact, generally admired our gold and silver chains and watches very much, but had nothing to show in return except broken shells from the sea-coast.
Among the new and interesting scrubs and trees which we met with at almost every step, I shall only mention a small Grevillea, from one to two feet in height, with pubescent pinnatifid leaves, and a simple or compound thyrsus of scarlet flowers; Cochlospermum gossypium, the native cotton tree of Port Essington, whose bright showy yellow blossoms and large capsules full of silky cotton, attracted our attention; its leaves are deciduous, and the trees were entirely leafless; a fine species of Calytrix on the rocks, and two of Loranthus on the drooping tea tree, the drooping foliage of which one of them imitated, whilst the other belonged to the group I mentioned as found at the Suttor, with its flowers inserted on a leafy bract.
Exocarpus latifolius is so different from E. cupressiformis, in its foliage and aspect, that I did not suspect their near relation, until I found blossom and fruit: the ripe kernel as well as its yellow succulent leaf-stalk have a very agreeable taste; a leguminous shrub, about five or six feet high, with purple blossoms gathered into terminal oblong heads; this would be an ornament to our gardens. Along the river we discovered a large tree, about forty or fifty feet in height, with rather singularly disposed horizontal branches and rich dark green foliage; its leaves were oblong acute, and frequently a foot long; its flowers formed dense heads, which grew into a fleshy body marked with the arcoles of every flower. It is either Sarcocephalus or Zuccarinia, or nearly allied to them. The tree has never been seen on easterly waters, but it was the invariable companion of all the larger freshwater rivers round the gulf. A fine species of Gomphrena was found in the sandy bed of the river. A species of Terminalia, a fine shady tree, with spreading branches and broad elliptical leaves, grew along the sandy creeks; and another smaller one with Samara fruit preferred the rocky slopes. Both of these, and a third species growing on the west side of the gulph, which I shall have to mention hereafter, supplied us with fine eatable gum, and a fourth species, with smooth leaves, had an eatable fruit of a purple colour.
The view I obtained from one of the hills near our yesterday’s camp was very characteristic. The country was broken by low ranges of various extent, formed by exceedingly rocky hills and peaks, which lifted their rugged crests above the open forest that covered their slopes. Heaps of rocks with clusters of trees, particularly the smooth-leaved fig tree, the rose-coloured Sterculia, Exocarpus latifolius, were scattered over the slopes, or grew on the summits, to which they gave the resemblance of the lifted crest of an irritated cockatoo, particularly when huge fantastic blocks were striking out between the vegetation. As we travelled along, ranges of hills of this character appeared one after another; to which wallums and wallabies fled for security as we scared them from the river’s side; the rose-breasted cockatoo (Cocatua Eos, Gould.) visited the patches of fresh burnt grass, in large flocks; bustards were numerous on the small flats between basaltic hillocks, where they fed on the ripe fruit of Grewia.
On the evening of the 27th May, we killed one of our bullocks, which had suffered more than any of the others by the journey, in consequence of his having carried our ammunition, which had decreased comparatively little, and the great weight of which had raised large lumps on his ribs, which had formed into ulcers. We were very disagreeably disappointed in not finding sufficient fat to fry the liver, which was our favourite dish; even the fat of the marrow had disappeared and had left a watery tissue, which, when grilled for some time, turned into a yellow substance, having the taste of the fried yolk of an egg. We dried our meat on the 28th, 29th, and 30th. I took a set of lunar sights, and calculated my longitude 143 degrees 30 minutes.
May 31. — We had scarcely left, our camp, when swarms of crows and kites (Milvus isiurus) took possession of it, after having given us a fair fight during the previous days, whilst we were drying the meat. Their boldness was indeed remarkable, and if the natives had as much, we should soon have had to quit our camp. Proceeding, we travelled over a broken and very stony country, with a stiff soil, but mixed with so much sand that even the Severn tree grew well. There was another small tree, the branches of which were thickly covered with bright green leaves; it had round inferior fruit, about half an inch in diameter, which was full of seeds: when ripe, it was slightly pulpy and acidulous, and reminded me of the taste of the coarse German rye bread. In consequence of this resemblance, we called this little tree the Bread tree of the Lynd. I ate handfulls of this fruit without the slightest inconvenience. A species of Pittosporum, and several Acacias, Pandanus, and the leguminous Ironbark, were scattered through an open forest of Ironbark and lanceolate box. I observed here a very ornamental little tree, with drooping branches and linear lanceolate drooping leaves three inches long; it very much resembled a species of Capparis that I had seen at the Isaacs. Its blossoms are very small, and the calyx and corolla have each five divisions; the stamens are opposite the petals; it bore a fruit like a small apple, with a hard outside, but pulpy and many seeded within, like Capparis; the calyx was attached to the base of the fruit.
The rock was still granitic, with small outbreaks of basalt; the leaflets of white mica were visible everywhere in the soil and in the large ant-hills, whose building materials were derived from the decomposed felspar. The bed of the river was frequently rocky, and very broad, with low banks and no water. The highest flood-marks we observed were from six to eight feet above the level of the bed; these marks were on the trunks of Casuarinas, Melaleucas, and flooded-gum, which grew along the channel. The country in general had a winterly appearance; and the grass round the camp was dry, but I observed the fine grass of the Isaacs, and many varieties which grow on the Suttor and Burdekin, which will yield an excellent feed in the proper season; and, even at the present, neither our bullocks nor horses were starving.
The part of the country in which we were, possesses great interest in a meteorological point of view. In the centre of the York Peninsula, between the east coast and the gulf, and on the slopes to the latter, as might be expected, the northerly and easterly winds which set in so regularly after sunset, as well along the Burdekin as on the basaltic table land, failed, and were succeeded here by slight westerly and easterly breezes, without any great and decided movement in the atmosphere; and westerly winds, which had formerly been of rare occurrence, became more frequent and stronger. The days, from the stillness of the air, were very hot; but at night the dews were heavy, and it was very cold. Charley asserted that he had seen ice at our last camp.
The black cockatoo (Calyptorhynchus Banksii) has been much more frequently observed of late.
We used the last of our salt at the last camp; and what we should do without it, was a question of considerable interest. As I had never taken salt with me in my reconnoitring expeditions, and had never felt the want of it with dried beef, either grilled or raw, I recommended my companions to eat their meat in the same state; and, in fact, good dry beef, without any farther preparation, was much relished by all of us: for, when grilled, it became ashy and burnt, particularly when without fat; and, if stewed, although it yielded a good broth, it became tough and tasteless. The meat of the last bullock was very hard and juiceless, and something was to be done to soften it, and make it palatable: as we had no fat, we frequently steamed it with water, but this rendered it tough, without facilitating in the least the mastication; and its fibres, entering between our teeth, rendered them exceedingly tender, and caused us much pain. After a week’s trial, and several experiments, we returned to our former practice of stewing it, and in a very short time relished it as much without salt, as we had formerly done with it.
Last updated Monday, December 22, 2014 at 10:52